Minnesota Wild (43-21-6) 92pts 2nd in the Central
3.21 Goals For Per Game (2nd in the NHL)
2.44 Goals Against Per Game (5th in the NHL)
20.9% Power Play (9th in the NHL)
84% Penalty Kill (7th in the NHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #64 Mikael Granlund ~ 24G 41A = 65pts
2. #12 Eric Staal ~ 24G 30A = 54pts
3. #9 Mikko Koivu ~ 18G 34A = 52pts
4. #22 Nino Niederreiter ~ 20G 28A = 48pts
5. #3 Charlie Coyle ~ 15G 32A = 47pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #7 Chris Stewart ~ 79 PIM’s
2. #21 Ryan White ~ 77 PIM’s
3. #24 Mathew Dumba ~ 57 PIM’s
1. #40 Devan Dubnyk (36-17-3) 2.12GAA .929%SP 5SO
2. #35 Darcy Kuemper (7-4-3) 3.21GAA .904%SP
Winnipeg Jets (31-33-7) 69pts 5th in the Central
2.96 Goals For Per Game (7th in the NHL)
3.17 Goals Against Per Game (27th in the NHL)
17.4% Power Play (22nd in the NHL)
76.8% Penalty Kill (28th in the NHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #55 Mark Scheifele ~ 28G 42A = 70pts
2. #29 Patrik Laine ~ 33G 27A = 60pts
3. #27 Nikolaj Ehlers ~ 22G 36A = 58pts
4. #26 Blake Wheeler ~ 21G 37A = 58pts
5. #33 Dustin Byfuglien ~ 11G 35A = 46pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #33 Dustin Byfuglien ~ 101 PIM’s
2. #22 Chris Thorburn ~ 88 PIM’s
3. #8 Jacob Trouba ~ 52 PIM’s
1. #37 Connor Hellebuyck (23-18-4) 2.86GAA .907%SP 4SO
2. #34 Michael Hutchinson (4-11-3) 3.24GAA .893%SP 1SO
First of all, I hope you like our recurring tribute to NBC‘s Parks and Recreation and Chris Pratt‘s alternative music tribute ‘the Pit’ which I think is appropriate considering the Wild’s recent woes.
Last night, my wife and I along with a some friends and colleagues of mine competed in a trivia contest as a fundraiser for a local school’s Spanish program. Our team, who I outfit with various hockey jerseys stand out quite a bit in South Central Wisconsin where few pay attention to the game. As last year’s defending champions we were clearly the targets as other clubs challenged our team specifically during team introductions. At the end of the contest we ended up tied for 1st and unfortunately we came up short on the tie breaking question. No one came around to be smarmy and say, “well better luck next year” or “damn, so close” they didn’t say anything at all. Our team wasn’t expecting sympathy and neither should the Minnesota Wild after dropping their game to the New York Rangers last night.
No NHL team, or opposing fanbase is going to feel too sorry for the fact the team is coming off a long road trip or that its won just 2 out its last 9 games. When the Wild hit the ice at MTS Centre, neither the Jets or their fans will hold back at all against Minnesota, instead it will be as though their is blood in the water with a pool of sharks swimming around. The only way the Minnesota Wild are going to get out of this slump, swoon, etc is to play better and want it more than their opponent. So far lately, it seems like a handful of players seem to really be giving it 100% while others seem to be coasting or holding back. The Wild need to be all in; regardless of where the Jets may be in the Western Conference standings because they must assume they’re going to get the best effort Winnipeg has to give and the Jets had the day off yesterday.
The Jets are really not playing that much better than the Wild are of late going 4-4-2 in its last 10 games. Winnipeg is a team that often self-destructs with ill-timed penalties and its goaltending has been sub-par. Sound familiar Wild fans? It should, as the Wild have had its own issues in precisely in those parts of the game especially so in their 4-game losing streak.
Still, the Jets have moments that make you wonder how they’re not in the playoff picture. Patrik Laine has been everything as advertised when he was selected 2nd Overall in this year’s draft being the hard shooting Alex Ovechkin-like sniper that any team would covet. Mark Scheifele is having a giant year and proving he was a wise choice with the 7th Overall pick, who walked on stage in St. Paul in the 2011 draft as the Jets 2.0 first pick. Nikolaj Ehlers brings speed, skill and moxie while the club still has some pretty good veterans in Bryan Little, Blake Wheeler and of course the much-reviled but plenty dangerous Dustin Byfuglien patrolling the blueline.
If the Jets have another major weakness its in its blueline where the group has struggled mightily beyond Byfuglien and Jacob Trouba who has all but stated he wants out of Winnipeg. The rest of their defense consists of guys who either not quite ready or more suited to being 6th and 7th defenseman on a good day or playing for the American Hockey League‘s Manitoba Moose. Goaltending is the other sore spot and Connor Hellebuyck is the starter more or less by default because the other Jets goalies have been considerably worse and Hellebuyck has just been ok.
The Minnesota Wild’s game had been lagging for a while, but because they were able to bury 3+ goals per night it didn’t manifest itself as a problem. Now the offense has gone cold beyond a few players and that has contributed to the misery. Zach Parise, Nino Niederreiter and Charlie Coyle need to get more involved on the scoring portion of the scoresheet instead of being passengers as Mikael Granlund, Eric Staal and Jason Zucker carry most of the workload. By the way, stick tap to Eric Staal on playing in his 1,000th NHL game today.
Mathew Dumba had a goal in last night’s game, but he has often thwarted some of his offensive flashes with lazy penalties. That needs to stop no matter who the Wild are playing. I would imagine Darcy Kuemper gets the start this early evening after Devan Dubnyk started last evening, and hopefully Kuemper gives them a solid start. So what else does this team have to do to win this evening?
- Don’t get caught up in the shenanigans – Little doubt the Jets will exhibit their dirty side with their physical play both before and after the whistle. Minnesota must not get caught up in trying to match the Jets hit-for-hit or the after the whistle scrums. The Wild should just play fast and let the Jets shoot themselves in the foot with penalties.
- Be tough near the crease – While it may sound like I am contradicting my previous point, the Wild need to be strong near the crease at either end of the ice. Minnesota must show some ‘want to’ when pucks are near the paint and not allow themselves to be so easily sealed off by the Jets’ defenders. No more flybys. Outwork the Jets from in close and will yourself some ugly goals. Same is true on the other end, where the Wild defenders need to take the body and seal off opposing skaters and let Kuemper worry about stopping the pucks instead of dropping to the ice trying to be an additional goalie.
- Keep it simple & take control of the crowd – Tic-tac-goals look great, but right now the Wild must simplify its game offensively. Its more than just taking shots whenever those opportunities present themselves, its working to create chances in close. Low-lying shots create rebounds and Minnesota needs to be moving towards the net and get some confidence going early in this game and quieting the MTS Centre crowd.